Author Archives: shadowolfhunter

Vexed

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It has been a very long time since I have fallen in love with a TV series. So when I finally found something worth watching on the goggle box lurking in the corner, it came as a stunning surprise.

Person Of Interest is the latest hot show from JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan (yup, him younger brother of Chris “Batman” Nolan). So this show is a heap big deal. Channel Five bought the show. So I have been glued to every episode and its repeats. I even bought the series pass from iTunes for my birthday present. Believe me, that’s a big choice for me because I do not have huge amounts of money to burn.

So you can seriously colour me frustrated that they are having a (and I quote here) “Mid Season Break” and the show will be back shortly. It’s the middle of October. I do not call bringing the remaining thirteen episodes back in JANUARY 2013 as the show being back SHORTLY. In the US, they may shunt things around for a few weeks (four to be exact), but 12 weeks is a FREAKING LIBERTY, and Channel Five have to know that.

Why are intelligent audiences always treated like CRAP?

For the record I loathe soaps, detest reality and the karaoke caterwauling that passes for X Factor, and think that the inventor of the game show should have been taken out and quietly put down as a service to humanity. I would rather put a house brick through the screen than watch any of that guff.

I do not ask much from my tv, only that it entertains me and occasionally stimulates my interest.

There are three flavours of CSI, I have seen every episode from every season of all three of them at least three times each. That’s an awful lot of forensics. It has got to the stage where I can quote dialogue from the CSIs before it happens on the screen. So once in a while when something new, fresh and exciting comes along, it has a great cast of mature people who can actually act, awesome dialogue, intriguing story lines, I settle down with a sigh of pleasure because I know for a little while at least, I am not going to be tormented with stuff that has not just jumped the shark at least five years ago and should have been put out to pasture accordingly, but has been pogoing back and forth over the shark until even the shark has died of boredom.

Even if you can factor in that there might be a pressing reason to do this. (I think it’s horse pucky, but that is of course, my view), why bring the show back in January? Three months. THREE LONG, HARD BORING MONTHS. There is the internet. I already know what happens, because (strangely enough) I can read and I am curious. But I don’t “KNOW” what happens. I cannot see the episodes that I will not have access to until January. Unless I buy the DVD from the US.

Owing to my astounding incompetence. Desmond is still swimming around in the basement (where he’s been for fifteen months or so). I am going to have to return to Assassin’s Creed for three months solid in the hope that I will somehow gain the appropriate dexterity and extract Desmond from the basement, presumably suitably waterlogged and continue on his quest. Before I get to see the rest of Reese and Finch and their quest for the end of Season One.

Season Two is already underway in the US. Will Channel Five even buy it? Or will I have to improvise. Again!!

Channel Five, you are a bunch of boring farts, I am now going to put you all in a novel and slay you in various unkind and seriously unpleasant ways. If I were Mr Reese I have no doubt I could do it with much claret. Being only a writer, short, wide and not especially well endowed with skills, I expect I will have to come up with creatively entertaining ways to make up for THREE MONTHS OF TELEVISUAL BOREDOM. Believe me, that is a lot of repressed boredom.

Of course, if I were truly to get right down the nitty gritty, I would be scribbling this angst-ridden and irritable missive on cheap lined file paper in green biro and signing myself Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

You may colour me vexed.

Quiche for Men

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It is a long established fact that I am a random and often incompetent cook. I subscribe to the philosophy of life that goes something like this: Dance, Make Stuff, Try Not To Be A Dick. You will note, dear reader, that nowhere in that is there any reference to being a good cook.

I dance. Quite a lot really. But always after dark.

I make stuff. Quite a lot of stuff. And I write, which is a sort of making stuff.

Whether I am a dick or not is open to question or interpretation; but I try not to be. Sorry Yoda, there is definitely a try.

Trying. (Yes, I know I am). Everyone who knows me even slightly knows that I am insatiably curious. If I latch on to something, I have to pursue it to its furthest end. And I will try almost anything at least once.

I ask a lot of seemingly random and very strange questions. Some of these are inspired by a need for research into various plot points; some of them are pure devilment of mine own devising. One of the recipients of my bizarre questions is my good friend Tom. Tom is a much better cook than I, he’s also a film-maker who blogs about the thing closest to my heart, films, and food. And bless him, and Mark, they always answer my weird questions.

The question here was about Quiche. Now I really do have very few accomplishments in the kitchen, and my spectacular and very substantial (and extremely rich) Quiche is one. The reasons for asking the question don’t actually matter here, but the answers did start me thinking.

Perhaps it really is the perceived girly-ness of Quiche that put men off?

My quiche is different. For a start, it’s sturdy. It doesn’t wobble when you cut it into slices. It contains double cream, eggs, a mountain of cheese (I prefer Edam) and smoked bacon lardons. It all sits on top of a rich and very short pastry (the sort of pastry that never goes in the pan in one piece).

Most importantly, a little like opera it teeters gloriously on the brink of disaster. There is no written recipe, it’s made by instinct. And the one and only dish I cook which turns out the same every time regardless of measurements.

Take three eggs (and believe me, this is the last measurement), put them in a bowl or jug and beaten LIGHTLY with a fork. You do not want a totally blended emulsion. Add a goodly sized tub of double cream. Grate some cheese.

You need plenty of cheese. You do not want a loose wobbly quiche. The cheese is the glue that binds it all together.

Heat your frying pan. It needs to be hot. Add your lardons to your bare pan. They already have fat, you cook them down in their own fat.

The fat should turn transparent. Bear in mind that the quiche gets cooked, so your bacon will go on cooking, you do not want it stewed to death.

Make your pastry. Bake it blind in a nice deep seven inch cake tin.

Combine your drained bacon with the egg mixture, and the cheese. Stir it all together.

Put it into the pastry, and bake in the oven 180 degrees C for roughly 18-20 mins.

We Are All Sisters

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It’s been something of a roller coaster ride over the last few weeks, but we’re back with a new design and a new stronger focus for our documentary.

We are all sisters under the skin, but what does that really mean? Facebook has become more than just the place to share quirky cat photos and recipes. It’s about not being alone any more. It’s about sharing. And caring.

My own story has some complicated background, through Facebook I’ve found good friends. It’s become a place of safety, a place of relief from my situation. I’m lucky. Others are not as fortunate, and through the private groups, people are sharing deep personal feelings. Health, emotional difficulties, poverty, children, a thousand different troubles that can strike, and knowing that there will always be someone there to talk to, pretty much any hour of the day. Well that’s important.

Women over 45 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. We Are All Sisters is the story of some of those women and the challenges they are meeting and facing through shared experience in Groups. The good that such networking can do is incalculable.

We need your help to make this important documentary. Even $10 can help. Thank you.

http://igg.me/p/181603

That’s what friends are for!

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My blog partner in “My Ink Project“, Mel Hagopian has just launched her Indiegogo campaign for her documentary, Operation Hello Kitty – The Documentary, something that has made me think a lot about the friends that I have. The friends that I have made over the last few years are very important to me, as well as the friends I have known for years.

Mel’s documentary is a journey, one that began in High School. Her story is one of faith, hope, perseverance and Facebook.

My own friendship journey has a lot to do with Facebook.

Four years ago, after certain events in my life, I joined a website. For fun. As you do. I had been through a very nervous period, my marriage had not so much broken down, as evaporated. There were certain elements that made me anxious. Not the least some of the problems I encountered using the internet. People knew who I was, and that wasn’t in a good way.

So, my new friends on this forum persuaded me that I would certainly be safe on Facebook, that the dodgy elements from my past ‘life’ were unlikely to follow me down the rabbit hole, and I should just cut loose and have fun. My scepticism was sizeable, but I decided that a leap of faith was in order. I leapt.

I should also mention that those friends, urged me to join Harper Collins’ website, Authonomy.

Facebook and Authonomy proved to be momentous decisions.

I joined my friends on Facebook, and Authonomy brought more friends. One of them turned out to be my best buddy, writing partner, keeper of my comma splices and honorary little brother… then Jason became my business partner, and the rest is well, a bit more than just history!

Through Authonomy and Facebook, I met so many amazing and talented people, that a couple of years ago, I did again. I joined another forum.

This turned out to be another one of the happiest accidents of my life. Through a friend I made on that site, I met my incredible blog partner and amazing friend, Mel.

Again, I met wonderful, talented, positive friendly people, some of whom have become true, close, lasting friends.

My home life situation can be stressful. There is no one I am that close to in the immediate vicinity. But my Facebook friends have made an incredible difference to my life. It makes dealing with all the petty irritations of life in suburbia with a very aged parent so much less stressful.

Facebook could even save a life. Mel and her friends banded together in a secret private group to get help to a friend alone in another country. This lady was dangerously ill, and in serious need of help. With love in their hearts, Mel and her high school friends put themselves to the difficult task of getting her that much needed aid, and bringing her home.

Facebook has got a lot of negative press, and there are plenty of people who are happy to run it, and its users down. It, and the friends I have met because of it, those two forums and Harper Collins’ attempt at a self-reading slush pile, have turned my life from near disaster to absolute triumph. I may be financially bumping along the bottom (again), but I am exceedingly rich in lovely friends.

Thank you, Facebook!

My Top 50 Films

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In no particular order, but purely for the emotions they stir up, and the artistic merit they have for me personally.

  • Pepe Le Moko (1937)
  • The House on 92nd Street (1945)
  • One of our Aircraft is Missing (1942)
  • Operation Amsterdam (1958)
  • Went The Day Well (1942)
  • The Battle of the River Plate (1956)
  • Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)
  • The Boy on the Dolphin (1957)
  • Mayerling (1968) – for Omar Sharif I stood in a ploughed field in Austria. In the pouring rain, wearing only a tee shirt, shorts and leather sandals. The family dog was called Rudolf after the Crown Prince too!
  • Five Graves to Cairo (1941) – my obsession with this film began when I was a child!
  • Gaslight (1940)
  • Dangerous Moonlight (1944) (also known as Suicide Squadron, ghastly name which utterly destroys the dark romantic premise)
  • The Red Shoes (1948) – my trio of Anton Walbrook, authoritative, Austrian, intense and deliciously dark.
  • Night Train to Munich (1940) – Sexy Rexy and Paul Henreid playing the polar opposite of his Casablanca character.
  • The Third Man (1949) – Orson Welles is only on screen for ten minutes, but he really makes it count.
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Y0jimbo (1961)
  • Laura (1944) – This film is pure genius. The casting is perfect. Everything about it is perfect.
  • Leave Her to Heaven (1945) – Gene Tierney was never better (except perhaps in Laura)
  • Sealed Cargo (1951)
  • The Silent Enemy (1958)
  • The Letter (1940) – Somerset Maughan and Bette Davis, fabulous combination.
  • All About Eve (1950) – Davis again, at her brittle, brilliant best
  • Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) – Davis genius.
  • June Bride (1948) – Davis does comedy.
  • The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Monty Woolley, Bette Davis and Jimmy Durante. Mary Wickes as the nurse. As comedies go, this is about as perfect as it comes.
  • Cover Girl (1944) – Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Phil Silvers
  • I married a Witch (1942) – Veronica Lake and Frederic March
  • Charade (1963) – Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, effortless charm.
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Miss Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, doing what they do best.
  • Keeper of the Flame (1942) – Hepburn and Tracey
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) – The first Hemingway book I ever read.
  • The Guns of Navarone (1961) – Good old fashioned adventure.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
  • She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) – John Ford and John Wayne
  • To Be or Not To Be (1942)
  • The Mummy (1959)
  • The Thin Man (1934)

Now comes the slightly more controversial bit. Films made after 1965.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Harrison Ford made me want to go and dig great big holes all over Egypt.
  • Alien (1979) – In space there is no one to hear you scream!
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Koi Mil Gaya (2003) – For the dance in the rain sequence alone… Hrithik Roshan is incredible in this film.
  • Amelie (2001) – charming, crazy, funny and the epitome of French.
  • The Fifth Element (1997) – bonkers, but pure escapism.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • The Presence (2010)
  • Pig (2011)

The last two, I actually know the film-makers. So yeah, I feel a close personal connection to these films, and in both cases, I love the stories, so they both make my top fifty.

The Truth About Christian

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A lot has been said about 50 Shades of Grey and its two sequels. About the writing. About the fact that it’s fan fiction etc. Very little has been said about the reality of the Christian Greys of this world.

Christian’s primary motive seems to be to select young women that resemble his mother and then beat the living daylights out of them to relieve some strange repressed emotions. This is disturbing and abusive behaviour. Ana’s there to change him. Because with the love of a good woman, any man can be remoulded in the image the woman has in mind.

That is a ridiculous fallacy that went out with believing that the world is flat.

You cannot change an abuser. You can die trying. Literally.

Want to know what it’s really like living with someone like Christian. You become nervous, because life is endlessly uncertain. You try to constantly monitor and modify your own behaviour in case you set them off. Because you know that if you do set them off, it will be painful, either physically or mentally.

Mentally, the marks don’t show, unless you know what to look for.

Abused people are often perpetually tired. The mental effort of trying to keep positive, find excuses for your abuser’s behaviour and just to get some rest from the hamster wheel in your head is unbelievable. You find yourself losing a train of thought in the middle of a sentence.  But you know that whatever you do, it will be wrong, you fear the reprisal and you still know its coming. It doesn’t matter how tough, or sophisticated and experienced you are, once you are in the spiral there is no way out other than the front door.

I was married to a man with a need to dominate. I was older than he was, far more travelled, experienced, cynical and sophisticated. I wanted to let him lead, I believed that he deserved that, and my support. Even though I should have known that he didn’t really want that. The fact of me, and what was perfectly natural to me (travel, education, the kinds of things that upper middle class people like to do) was actually a thorn in his side. I didn’t know that at the time. I was prepared to subsume myself to make him happy. Because if I made him happy, I would be happy. That’s what abused thinking does to you.

He wore me out and wore me down. I tried to be the little wifey. I found a trillion excuses for the things that he did. There was always a new excuse I could make to myself and other people. He was highly intelligent with an enquiring mind. He could have been anything he chose, if he had bothered to apply himself. Even after several people tried to warn me, I was still hellbent on a course that would bring me only ruin and unhappiness.

I am a tough cookie. I have had to be. Growing up was no picnic. My father passed away when I was 12. My mother and I have a very fractious relationship. She is a very difficult and flighty person, who has no off switch and goes her full unbridled length without thought for the consequences. Even now that she’s a frail 85 year old, our relationship is stormy at best. She is still perfectly capable of going up like a brush fire.

When I was a teenager, going home was like parachuting into a minefield.

Being married was like parachuting into a minefield wearing a suit of armour and the mines are magnetic.

Whatever you do you are going to step on one.

I am far from fault free. I have my own bunches of neuroses. I have plenty of temper issues, and I’m an only, I like my own way.

A man as angry and with as many issues as Christian is going to be an utter nightmare. He may not even intend the damage he inflicts, but he’s going to do it anyway, he can’t help himself and deep inside, he doesn’t want to. It’s all about control. His control. He’s a rich man, used to getting his own way, and he’s not about to consider the feelings of others. That is not how it works. You can give to charity and still have the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn.

I feel genuine concern at the content of these stories. Because they are fiction, they are a step away from the nightmare reality, as such they are cushioning the facts. There is a world of difference between a consensual, sane, passionate relationship between mature adults who are fully informed and enjoy bdsm, and a guy who enjoys tying up a girl and hitting her whether she wants him to or not. Ana isn’t informed, she’s acquiescent and that is not the same thing.

Be clear, I was lucky, my former husband did not beat me up. He was a very unhappy man, and he spread that unhappiness about like a pall, but he never hit me. He made me so stressed and miserable that I did not know which end was up. When he left, I was all over the place, but the primary feeling I had was one of real relief.

If you really met a Christian and became involved with him, if you were an Ana, the truth is that your instinct of self-preservation would have you running for your life. Abuse in a relationship can happen to women or men. The lucky get out. The unlucky do not. But do not dress this up as either porn or bdsm, it is not erotic.

Bless This Mess

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I know I have been quiet for a while, but I have a very good excuse. In 18 days time, I have a visitor who is coming to stay here while I am in Kentucky.

My house is, in fact, my mother’s. To explain my domicile in the best possible way, so that you get an idea of what I am up against, I would like to draw your attention to a film called June Bride. It was one of those screwball comedies from the 1940s/50s that were subtly sophisticated in their way and totally hilarious.

June Bride stars the inimitable Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery (father of Elizabeth, of Bewitched fame, but I digress). It also stars a house. Decorated in a style referred to throughout as McKinley Stinker.

In other words, desperately old fashioned, and in sad need of a makeover. But McKinley Stinker covers it with so much more class.

I’m sure you can see the chintz. So… picture that chintz. Add a good hefty dollop of pet depredation (curtains dangling drunkenly from not frightfully well attached curtain rails… that sort of thing), sprinkle with moving boxes from a three bedroom maisonette from when adult daughter returned home with a husband and a caravan (caravan and husband have now gone… I miss the caravan…) add in a soupçon of very strange decorating choices, and some seriously ill-advised colour schemes, allow to simmer…

E voila!

Overstuffed McKinley Stinker.

There is way more accumulated bric a brac here than fits on the bookshelves. The loft is full. And we do not have a basement.

Before you all jump on my case, I should point out that in terms of hoarding, my mother makes me look like a dilettante. Up in the loft is the Silver Cross pram that was last occupied by yours truly. My mother kept it just in case. Okay, maybe that is understandable, I am female and she was hoping for grandchildren. But that does not explain how the pram was ever going to be got out of the loft, it was a tight fit before the loft ladder was installed.

That also does not explain my grandfather’s golf clubs (he passed away in Melbourne, Australia in 1960!), there are also off cuts of carpets, none of which actually match the carpeting scheme in this house, wallpaper – 172 rolls at the last count… a toy box, a mountain of old, broken and curiously ugly Christmas decorations. They were pretty ugly before age withered them.

This house has a seriously redeeming feature. It has a real fireplace. Toasted crumpets by the fire in winter are just perfect, except that before I am even vaguely tempted to think about that the chimney needs sweeping.

There are a million ornaments that need dusting, pictures stacked three deep on the stairs, and I am attempting by sheer force of will (as opposed to green fingers or any real gardening skill) to keep the kalanchoe I bought two weeks before Easter alive. After all, my old, and very strangely decorated bedroom needs serious brightening up. Anything that draws the eye from the hideous pink frilly curtains I count as a serious plus.

So, I am sweeping under rugs, forcing closet doors shut on the mountains of clothing and assorted other items that are welling out of them and transferring boxes of stuff that doesn’t need to be kept particularly tidy into the garage. One day, I might even fix the garage door so that it actually shuts.

I am the least domesticated creature on the planet. I crave ultramodern and minimalist surroundings. But until then I will try to keep the hoarding at bay!

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Last year I was lucky enough to meet Henry Barrial and Mark Stolaroff. Their film, Pig, is quite remarkable. As Pig begins a multi-festival run in the next six weeks, I am re-blogging this post from Pig’s own blog, sharing some insights into Henry, the film’s writer and producer!

thepigpicture

What piece of advice for aspiring writers would you think most crucial? Write every day.  Never stop.  Never slack off.

Revising/editing: labor of love or torture tour? Both.  Revising/re-writing feels evil until you look back upon an earlier draft and breath a sigh of relief that no one over saw that version.

Criticism: major motivator or background noise? Criticism is now a major motivator.  It wasn’t always like that.  I used to shrink from it.  I now thank all the naysayers (and still hate them).  I get pissed that no one believed in me enough to give me a break, but I’m stronger now than I ever would have been.  It’s good to be angry.  Pain is a good thing.  Besides, the naysayers will always be there.  Get used to it.

Art for art’s sake, or show me the money? Art is the process of discovering what you really are…

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Travelling!

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I was born with wanderlust permanently ingrained in my soul. Anywhere but here was something that spurred me on to greater endeavour at a very young age. I used to wander off. Regularly. My mother would turn round and I was miles away. Again.

I always wanted to be some place else. Particularly foreign places.

My parents would up sticks at the beginning of the summer holidays and we would head out of the UK for a fortnight (I have been a huge fan of fourteen whole days ever since!).

The adventure always began with packing. Boy… did it ever! My mother is a just in case person. (In case of what? My father would gently enquire!). She truly belonged to the days of gracious liners, steamer trunks and a line of sweating porters schlepping her monstrous accumulation of luggage down the concourse in her wake. I vividly remember our early holidays. Partly because I would be squished between huge piles of suitcases throughout the journey.

Hand luggage was something that did not need to be raised by forklift. My mother once took a suitcase containing 27 pairs of shoes for a fortnight’s holiday. And no, that is not rational.

Suitcases were inevitably retrieved from the attic at least a month before departure. In vain my father would point out that everything would be creased. It was washed and packed and that was that!

In addition to these suitcases, my mother was an avid shopper. It was absolutely inevitable that she would buy more clothes on every trip. And she did. I have been forcing suitcases shut since before I hit puberty. I am a mean suitcase stuffer! One of the side effects of this excess was that the suitcases got heavier, and this was before someone thought to put wheels on the bottom. My physical size and shape have probably got a lot to do with the fact that I spent a vast amount of my early life schlepping suitcases. By the time I was five or six I was lifting cases, this stayed with me throughout my life.

Heckscher family holidays were defined by chaos. My mother whilst highly decorative, was a complete scatter brain. She could lose anything. My father was endlessly harassed, but somehow we would muddle on to the next stop and we survived these forays into France, Spain and Italy relatively easily. Both my parents spoke French, my father because he spent a good deal of the war in French speaking places, and my mother because she had been to classes at the YMCA.

I am off travelling at the end of May. And believe me when I say that this trip is going to buck the trend for Heckscher chaos. There will be lists, there will be one SMALL carryon bag – in this life there are two classes of luggage, carry on and lost – I am taking two pairs of shoes, and the flip flops I plan to wear on the flight. I was a professional administrator, it will be organised and nothing will get lost.

At least I do not wear the thing that has vexed me since I was old enough to know what they are. Contact Lenses. While I appreciate there are many wearers of these things out there, and I applaud your fortitude in wanting to stick your finger in your eye on a daily basis, and all the attendant hassle associate with the things, I will pass thank you very much.

When you have spent as much time as I have, on my hands and knees, crawling around the floor, looking for my mother’s missing contact lens, you will appreciate that the things drive me nuts. The genius who invented the pot with the springy plastic clips I personally wish to take outside and show him the error of his ways. You know it was a him. No woman would ever be that stupid. Springy plastic prongs that fire said wretchedly small item clear across a fifteen foot room? Huh!!! REALLY??

There was the joyful holiday in Greece. Not only did I have to contend with being very white and very English (sunburn, peeling like a ticker-tape parade!!), we were unprepared for electricity failures in mountain villages, cockroaches the size of dogs, my mother lost a contact lens in every place we stayed. (Three pairs). Several thousand years of culture and history did distract me from going nuclear. Just.

I love Greece. Classical architecture, history, ruins (I like ruins)… my travelling soul was appeased. My BS meter was going spare.

No, this trip will be joyous. This trip will be organised. And for one glorious week, my saintly employee will discover the idiosyncrasies of life in a Heckscher household. (Heaven help her!).